CHARMM-GUI Free Energy Calculator for Practical Ligand Binding Free Energy Simulations with AMBER

Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling vol. 61  p. 4145-4151  DOI: 10.1021/acs.jcim.1c00747  Published: 2021-09-15 

Han Zhang, Seonghoon Kim, Timothy J. Giese [ ] , Tai-Sung Lee [ ] , Jumin Lee, Darrin M. York [ ] , Wonpil Im

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Alchemical free energy methods, such as free energy perturbation (FEP) and thermodynamic integration (TI), become increasingly popular and crucial for drug design and discovery. However, the system preparation of alchemical free energy simulation is an error-prone, time-consuming, and tedious process for a large number of ligands. To address this issue, we have recently presented CHARMM-GUI Free Energy Calculator that can provide input and postprocessing scripts for NAMD and GENESIS FEP molecular dynamics systems. In this work, we extended three submodules of Free Energy Calculator to work with the full suite of GPU-accelerated alchemical free energy methods and tools in AMBER, including input and postprocessing scripts. The BACE1 (β-secretase 1) benchmark set was used to validate the AMBER-TI simulation systems and scripts generated by Free Energy Calculator. The overall results of relatively large and diverse systems are almost equivalent with different protocols (unified and split) and with different timesteps (1, 2, and 4 fs), with R2 > 0.9. More importantly, the average free energy differences between two protocols are small and reliable with four independent runs, with a mean unsigned error (MUE) below 0.4 kcal/mol. Running at least four independent runs for each pair with AMBER20 (and FF19SB/GAFF2.1/OPC force fields), we obtained a MUE of 0.99 kcal/mol and root-mean-square error of 1.31 kcal/mol for 58 alchemical transformations in comparison with experimental data. In addition, a set of ligands for T4-lysozyme was used to further validate our free energy calculation protocol whose results are close to experimental data (within 1 kcal/mol). In summary, Free Energy Calculator provides a user-friendly web-based tool to generate the AMBER-TI system and input files for high-throughput binding free energy calculations with access to the full set of GPU-accelerated alchemical free energy, enhanced sampling, and analysis methods in AMBER.